Allotment Diary – Week 1 – 2017

Welcome to the first Allotment Lifestyle Newsletter of 2017. 

Apart from turning the compost heap I haven’t done much on the allotment this week because I damaged my ankle about three weeks ago and it’s taking an age to heal. I think I damaged the ligaments and tendons when I put my foot into a pool of old horse manure that came up to my knee. When I pulled my foot out, that’s when the damage occurred.

Allotment Lifestyle is all about finding different, preferably cheaper, ways to do things, and so I searched the internet for a natural remedy for sprains and (possible) breaks. A lot of websites recommend Comfrey (KnitboneSymphytum), so I scoured the plot for Comfrey leaves, but alas found none. So I ordered some dried Comfrey leaves off ebay and when they arrived, I made a poultice by pouring boiling water over a handful of the leaves to rehydrate. I then took a hand blender to the mix and made a paste which I applied to the ankle and covered with clingfilm. I do believe it is working as I am able to move around today. I’ll keep you posted. I also made a video about another natural remedy, for coughs.

I’m going to be ordering seeds today off ebay. I’m looking at Lyon and Giant Winter leeks and King of the North Sweet Pepper. I also might order another Pepper “Sweet Banana” which looks good. I’ll also order spring onion “Lisbon”. If we get the deliveries next week, I’ll sow the seeds in modules. The front of our house gets a lot of sunshine and I’m going to set a table up by the front bedroom window to propagate the seeds. I’ve also been looking at a small walk in greenhouse which would fit in front of the window. If I need more space, I may just buy it. I wouldn’t recommend sowing seeds in the greenhouse just yet. My area (Bolton, Lancashire) is very cold at the moment and the weather is usually variable up to April. If you can find a suitable place at home to propagate your seeds (or heat your greenhouse?), that would be best. I also ordered onion sets and seed potatoes a few months ago from our local garden shop, they should be here sometime in February I think.

I’ve been brewing beer for years and usually use a polypin to package the beer. Last week though, I took delivery of 40, 500ml beer bottles and crown caps and I’ve bottle conditioned a 6% extra stout. I bottled when the beer had stopped at 1010 for 4 days and I added extra yeast and sugar to the wort before bottling. Very pleased with the results. Brewing beer at home from grains is not only a great way to get real, bottle conditioned ale for around 40p a bottle, but it also produces a lot of spent grain and hops for your compost. I have a small bin full at the moment (around 40 litres). The spent grain, hops and vegetable waste are a great source of nitrogen and can be mixed at a ratio of 25:1 (carbon to nitrogen) with straw to form compost. The problem with spent grain and food waste is that rats and other rodents love it, so I recommend putting chicken wire down on the ground, placing a black 260 litre compost bin over it and then layering straw and food waste until full. Don’t forget to water regularly, or if you want to go the extra mile, you can collect urine which adds nitrogen to the mix when added. Compost costs a fortune to buy, so if you make all your own, that would be great, but any amount you can make will cut your costs. I put making compost at the top of my list of things to do and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve.

I’m going to buy a bale of straw (£5.30), next week for the compost, but also, I’m going to try to grow oyster mushrooms in my cold frame. I did manage to grow oyster mushrooms last year, but not on the allotment, in my house. The harvest was poor though and while I did grow a large jar of mycelium, I didn’t complete the process, so I’m thinking of putting straw into my cold frame, sterilising with boiling water and then introducing the mycelium. It’s recommended to water regularly and if I get a harvest, that will be great. If not, I’ll just add the straw to my compost heaps, so nothing to lose really.

I’ve made a plan for my allotment for 2017 and I’ll be dividing the land up into 17 beds, 4.5 x 0.4 metres. I’ll be able to stride over these beds and straddle them when planting and harvesting. I’m planning on growing Strawberries, Spinach, Courgette, Spring Onions, Cauliflower, Salad Leaves, Calabrese, Raddish, Cabbage, Dwarf Beans, Mixed Lettuce, Carrots, Sprouts, Sweetcorn, Leeks, Onions, Garlic, Peas, Potatoes, Cucumber, Aubergine, Tomatoes, Melons, Peppers, Chillies and Mushrooms. I also keep chickens and I’m hoping to add 2 or 3 “point of lays” to the flock. Additionally, I want to clear a space at the back of the plot for an Apple and a Pear tree and I’ll also be planting Comfrey, Solomon’s Seal and various herbs in that area. This year, I’m going to be trying out a no dig method on some of the beds, but I think the majority are going to be fed with chicken pellets (6x) which will need to be dug in. I’ve bought a rotovator for that job to make life easier.

Busy, busy that’s the Allotment Lifestyle!

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